"Before Enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After Enlightenment; chop wood, carry water." - Zen Proverb
I want to apologize for taking so long between posts. The shenanigans of a very busy weekend occupied my time, and I was largely disconnected and off the grid for several days. This is an extreme rarity for me. Ultimately this has allowed me to meditate on the idea of Zen and Working Out. Hopefully it pays off in this post.
Over the last week I have finally been able to work out at about 90% capacity. Saturday morning I ran the Irish Jig 5k in Ludington. I finished with a time of 26:19, nearly ten minutes faster than my run last Saint Patrick in my first ever 5k. Today was the first Crossfit workout in two months that I truly felt like my hip and back didn't hold me back. Both of these bring me some level of joy.
Now what does any of this have to do with Zen principles? Congratulations, Sean, you were able to work out. It felt good. This is no new revelation. You enjoy the pain and controlled chaos that a workout brings. Old story. We get it.
Reread the Zen Proverb up above. Be persistent. Do whatever it takes. Once you have found it, keep going. In short, Zen can be described as understanding. It is a state of acceptance. Accepting the world for what it is. Knowing the only thing you have control of is you and everything else simply is. It does no good to fret over the things that are beyond our control. I keep talking about a journey. Hopefully I haven't worn out my precious few readers, but I have certainly been fairly exhaustive on the topic.
Ultimately I believe we are all in the process of becoming; becoming who we are meant to be and reaching an understand and an acceptance of it. Crossfit and exercise became an outlet for me. The gym and the streets became my avenues for change. I found a way to escape so much of what I disliked about me in a very personal, very physical outlet. Results were obvious. Anyone could see what I saw in the mirror, and I was certainly not short on confidence. Accepting myself became easier. But I had not really accepted myself.
Going to the gym was huge, but there was a part of me that got left behind. That part of me was no small part of who I am. I am a nerd. Call it what you like - nerd, geek, dweeb, etc. When I was so focussed on the gym, I left everything from my old life behind. Going to the gym was carrying water. The problem was I had forgotten to continue to chop wood. for years I had worked to develop my personality. I learned to chop wood throughout my life - to work tirelessly to develop myself on the inside. Wood chopping was the content of my character. When I began to carry water, I forgot that I would still need wood. I couldn't heat the house or maintain myself without wood. My thirst was certainly quenched, and I felt good until the winter came.
Winter came, both in actuality and symbolically at the same time. With the onset of winter came the onset of my worst injury. This was fortunate, because I could no longer go to the gym. Carrying water was no longer an option for me. I had to collect wood. I began to heat the house again and warm my soul. Slowly I could return to the gym. Now I had to take it easy. It was time to play a delicate balancing act. Through this, I found myself. I realized that to maintain me, I had to both collect wood and carry water.
In the darkness, I found the light. That light was within me, but I had dampened the light. When I opened the world to myself, I could once again shine out. To many people my darkness was obvious. It was tangible. It was foreboding, threatening and horrible. I came to accept that I have more facets than I thought. All of them essential. All of them beautiful. By letting the light shine all of my personality was able to escape. Zen is, to me, the art of acceptance and balance. Without accepting myself for all that I am I will never be truly happy. I have learned to accept that. For today I have found understanding, through this journey I will continue to become. I will never simply be.
Here's to becoming.